35th Oil Shale Symposium: Producers Working to Lower Break-Even Points
  Despite continued low oil prices, the mood at the 35th Annual Oil Shale Symposium in early October was surprisingly upbeat. Oil shale firms reported at the Symposium that they are taking advantage of the low-price lull by reassessing their business plans to find ways to reduce expenses and improve technologies so they will be better positioned for profitability when oil prices improve.

Reports were given demonstrating increases in shale oil production in China and Estonia (by both Enefit and VKG), with Enefit American Oil (EAO)’s parent company Enefit reporting that its new Eneft280 plant has almost reached its design capacity and providing emissions data demonstrating the low environmental impact of its technology. Enefit also reported that the commissioning of a new oil shale fired power plant in Estonia – the world’s largest and also capable of taking 50% biofuel feedstock – has already reached its design capacity, and that plans for the company’s Jordan power project are on track for construction to start in 2016.

Many of the attendees at the 35th Oil Shale Symposium joined a field trip after the conference to visit oil shale and oil sands projects, including Enefit’s project site (pictured), in eastern Utah and western Colorado.
Organized by the Colorado School of Mines and held in Salt Lake City for the first time, the Symposium provides an annual opportunity for oil shale developers, researchers, government officials, interest groups, and others, to discuss the state of the industry.

Representatives from Red Leaf Resources and EAO, as well as Australia’s Queensland Energy Resources (QER), all said their firms are working to reduce the break-even point for oil production. For example, Red Leaf, which is piloting in-ground capsules to extract liquid oil from oil shale, is planning to switch from using a network of steel pipes to heat the crushed oil shale to the direct injection of hot gas. A Red Leaf representative said the company is targeting a break-even price of $60-$80 a barrel.

Enefit, on the other hand, is working to fine-tune its retort process to be even more efficient, allowing sale of additional byproducts, and is considering mining a narrower band of richer oil shale ore, which will result in more gallons of oil produced per ton of mined ore, said EAO Chief Executive Officer Rikki Hrenko-Browning.
Utah Mining Association Celebrates 100 Years; Launches New Education Effort
  “The Voice of Utah’s Mining Industry” is celebrating a century of educating and advocating on behalf of one of the state’s most important industries. At its recent annual conference, Mark Compton, Executive Director of the Utah Mining Association, said the group will ramp up its efforts to communicate the importance and value of mining to Utah’s residents and economy.

Mining sits at the beginning of the supply chain for everything we use and everything we do as a society. Although it’s integral to the production of literally all goods and services, the value of mining is taken for granted by most people and is often denigrated for perceived negative environmental impacts. It’s the UMA’s role to raise awareness about and promote the industry, which it does through a variety of programs. At its centennial conference, UMA unveiled a new long-term communication and education strategic plan to increase UMA’s education activities by 10% each year, increase public perception of Utah mining by 5% each year, and increase student engagement by 5% each year.

A significant focus is already on educating 4th graders in Utah’s schools as part of their earth sciences curriculum. The UMA Ambassadors program has already reached more than 20,000 4th grade students in the last 3 years, and lesson plans for use in middle school (grades 7, 8 and 9) science courses are now being adopted statewide. While most students are aware that copper and coal are mined in Utah, they’re often surprised to learn about the many other minerals found here, including zinc, uranium, salt, silver, gold, and the world’s largest known source of beryllium.

Also at the UMA’s annual conference, EAO CEO Rikki Hrenko-Browning was elected to the organization’s Board of Directors. Congratulations, Rikki!
Penstemon Conservation Efforts Showing Promising Signs of Success
  Signed just one year ago, a landmark Conservation Agreement to help protect two sensitive species of flowering plants living on or near oil shale outcrops is already showing promising signs of success. Not only have more plants been identified throughout Utah’s southern Uintah Basin – and, importantly, in areas previously thought to be outside their growing range, nearly 90 percent of penstemon plants transplanted to an EAO conservation area in 2014 have survived the move, based on 2015 survey data.

Researchers previously believed transplantation would be much less successful, so this is a very encouraging development, according to Ryan Clerico, EAOs’ Head of Development and Environment. Based on this initial transplantation success, Penstemon Conservation Team researchers will be undertaking an even larger transplantation study this October, to further prove how well the plants survive transplantation under different conditions – including in disturbed areas – such as may occur following mine reclamation.

Federal, state and local government agencies, with input from energy producers, signed the 15-year Conservation Agreement in 2014 as an alternative to a federal listing of the two species as threatened or endangered, a designation that could severely affect the ability to develop oil shale deposits. To help make the Agreement a success, EAO voluntarily set aside more than 1,600 acres of its property for a conservation area and is supporting ongoing research and transplantation efforts.
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